Race and TV — Blog Post #4
Growing up as an African American in the United States can sometimes be a struggle. Although we’ve managed to make strides to eliminating segregation, the idea of racism still lives on. In some places it it more apparent than others, for example in film and television. I grew up when companies like Disney and Nickelodeon were in their prime; their channels brought it in billions of views from kids all around the world. Something I noticed when I looked back was that on each channel, and for every show they broadcasted, I could count on five fingers or less how many African American stars they had. Whether they were the main character (rarely ever) or a supporting character, they were always outnumbered by their white counterparts.
This seems to be the one place we’ve grown to see a lot more of a resistance in the fight against racism. There are a surplus of TV shows and films that reinforce negative stereotypes of people of color and plague our airwaves. We see many black characters characterized as ditzy, poor, or partaking in illegal activities. Another incident that has recently occurred was the Nina Simone biopic featuring Zoe Saldana as Nina. Many at first couldn’t find a problem with this but then there were those that caught on quickly. Nina Simone was a soulful songstress that was constantly criticized for her large nose and her dark skin.
I’m so disappointed in Zoe, as well as the individuals who are in charge of putting the biopic and casting together. If she had to put on blackface to play this part, she wasn’t the right actress for the job. Don’t get me wrong, I think Zoe is a good actress, but no one can honestly say that the producers/writers couldn’t find a better actress that didn’t need to put on blackface to play this part. This is honestly so offensive to not only the black community but Nina’s family. She deserves more than an actress in blackface portraying her—and in such terrible blackface at that. The truth of it all at the end of the day is that Zoe is considered a ‘safe’ brown actress for the whites. My question for you is what do you think? Was it wrong for them to cast Zoe and put her in blackface? Is colorism more prevalent than we thought?